Viking Cruises docks in Charlottetown during first North American trip

The Port of Charlottetown welcomed Viking Cruises Friday on their first foray into North America.

European cruise line a new and welcome addition for Island tourism operators

The 930-guest Viking Star was in Charlottetown on Friday, during Viking Cruises first foray into North America. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Island tourism put its best food forward Friday in an effort to get the high-end Viking Cruises line to make Charlottetown a normal part of its itinerary.

The Switzerland-headquartered cruise line — which forgoes "casinos, kids or umbrella drinks," as its website puts it, in favour of authentic food, "enriching" performances and fascinating lectures — was in the city on Friday as part of its new expansion into North America.

Tourism operator Experience PEI, under contract with Viking, offered lobster rolls and seafood chowder at a kitchen party under a tent on the waterfront — part of a bid to make sure they know P.E.I. would love to see them back.

Viking, best known for its luxury river cruises in Europe, launched the visiting ship Viking Star in 2015. This trip started in Norway and made its way to P.E.I. via Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland and Quebec. It's scheduled to make its way down the eastern seaboard, eventually ending up in the Caribbean in a couple of weeks.

'Big coup' for Charlottetown

"To have them come on this itinerary for their first time in North America, that's a big coup I think for Charlottetown to get them," said Bill Kendrick, owner of Experience PEI. "And the talk is that next year there's [more] Viking ships coming in."

Passengers from the cruise ship Viking Star enjoy some P.E.I. food during a visit to Charlottetown on Friday. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Viking hired Experience PEI to provide the shore excursions for its passengers. Unlike some other cruise lines, the day trips are included in the fare. 

"Most of the passengers are American," Kendrick said. "Most of them, as I understand, from the ship are people who are used to going with them on river cruises, so they are passengers who have an expectation of quality of service and quality of shore excursions."

Visitors were taken on guided walking tours of Charlottetown or travelled by bus to Green Gables and the Island's Acadian region.

Viking back next year

Corryn Clemence, business development manager for the Port of Charlottetown, said Viking is expected to make "a number of calls" next year.

Corryn Clemence, business development manager for the port, said Viking Cruises is scheduled to return next year. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"This is kind of a new foray into the European market for us," she said.

There will also be another first-time visitor at the Charlottetown seaport next week: the Crystal Serenity, which just finished a high-profile trip through the Northwest Passage.

With files from Nancy Russell